Club legend in the making

We catch up with flyer Tarek Elrich ahead of the Jets' games in Wellington and at home in the space of 5 days.

In the hard and fast world of professional football, club loyalty can be a rarity.

But Tarek Elrich has gone a long way to forever etching his name in Newcastle Jets folklore.

This is perhaps a big statement about a player who is only 22-years-old, but the signing of a new two-year deal in the Hunter last week ensured Elrich will remain a Jet into his seventh season as a professional footballer.

Having joined the club as a fresh faced 17-year-old trainee in season one, Elrich has since enjoyed a rapid rise to become one the first names on the Jets team sheet each week.

And despite receiving other offers from home and abroad, the former Western Sydney boy believes the time wasn-t right to head to pastures anew.

“Every player likes to test themselves and of course I-d like to play in a big league one day,” Elrich said. “But I-m still young. I want to go there (overseas) when I-m playing my best football. I don-t want to go now and be back by the time I-m 25.”

While making reference to a ‘big league-, Elrich reveals he may work his way to the cauldron-like stadiums of Germany or eloquent league of the Netherlands via Arabia.

“I-d like to try an Arab country. I think the lifestyle would suit me,” Elrich said. “I-ve spoken to (ex-Jet) James Holland and he says the league in Holland is great…and obviously I-ve watched the Bundesliga and I-d love to be a part of that.”

And while it-s almost certain a player of Elrich-s quality will one day challenge himself beyond the Hyundai A-League, Jets fans can look forward to seeing more attacking enterprise and crafty combinations from the right back yet.

“It-s very rare that you see me get the ball and look to go back. I think what we need is to get forward and I think that-s what the fans like to see,” he said.

Especially, Elrich-s combination with Labinot Haliti since the Kosovo-born striker-s return from Polish Ekstraklasa side LKS Lódz should have fans at EnergyAustralia Stadium salivating.

The pair have already linked on three occasions this season with the end result a Jets goal, and the partnership should only prosper further with time.

“I think Labinot understands my game really well,” Elrich said. “Thank god for Labi he-s always been there and hopefully I can assist him a lot more this season.”

Off the pitch Elrich is mature beyond his years, spending large portions of his free time doing promotional work, including regular visits to the Jets- charity partner the Leukaemia Foundation, and simply trying to put smiles on faces.

It was this impeccable attitude that saw him named as the club-s ambassador during the Hyundai A-League-s round 12 for UNICEF recently, and one that further cements his reputation as a fan favourite.

“As I tell the club all the time, if something comes up when you need me to go visit clubs, by all means send them my way, I-d love to attend,” Elrich said.

With Elrich currently seeking to buy a house in the Hunter, even an extended period plying his trade in a foreign land may only interject a return to the Newcastle Jets in the future, where Elrich would undoubtedly reassume star status amongst the Newcastle Jets faithful.

Meanwhile, Tarek and his Jets teammates are preparing to take on Wellington Phoenix tomorrow evening in New Zealand, before they return home to clash with Robbie Fowler-s North Queensland Fury this Sunday, 8 November. Tickets for this home game are available at www.proticket.com.au or by calling (02) 4915 2345.